JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thought you were finished shelling out for the Duval County Courthouse? Think again.
The building downtown, which has been the subject of much taxpayer frustration in recent years, is up and running. That is, except for eight courtrooms on the fifth floor because they don't have the tech equipment they'd need to adequately hear a case.
"They have everything else to make it all happen, except the IT equipment...the decision was made to forego those expenses [and] free up those dollars for something else," city councilman John Crescimbeni tells our partner Action News.
The traffic, tobacco, and small claims court on Beach Blvd. was closed in January as services were consolidated to the new courthouse. It was a move Crescimbeni called a "no-brainer" because he says it saved the city $1 million a year in rent. However, now court administrators are saying their schedules are getting backlogged, especially with tobacco and foreclosure cases.
Court administrator Joe Stelma says right now there are 600 active tobacco cases, each of which will take about four to six weeks to process. Jacksonville also leads the country in foreclosures with 23,000 already on the books and 790 new ones each month. Making it harder is the fact that the state is requiring them to process those foreclosure cases within the next two years.
The cost to get each of these rooms the tech they need? $700,000. On Tuesday city council voted to use about $350,000 left over from last year's budget to finish four of the eight courtrooms. They are expected to vote later this month on the other $350,000, which would come out of next year's budget.
"This is a one-time expense and in return we're saving a ton of money from not operating a whole separate court system," says Crescimbeni.
He says spending money now will ultimately save taxpayers money down the road.